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I studied history in college. Technically, I was an education major, but my heart was in history. I was idealistic—I was going to change lives teaching history, and I was going to present the past to students “as it really happened.” It wasn’t until my third year of college that I took historiography, and that is when I learned The Awful Truth. There is no “as it really happened.” This horrible realization left me disillusioned. I mourned the loss of history. I imagine a lot of history students go through the same shock. You learn you have dedicated your life to something that does not exist. The sad thing is that people expect historians to wrap the past in a neat box and present it to them without bias. This is literally impossible.

I should have taken that course my first year of college.

I adapted. I grew to enjoy historiography, enough that I pursued a master’s degree in it, but I still feel sad at having lost history. So I guess the moral of the story is to choose your major carefully, be skeptical of everything, and avoid The History Channel.

There was a decidely less nerdy bonus comic Monday, so be sure to go back if you missed it! And if you’d like to see a bonus comic at the end of this month, be sure to vote for KT on Top Web Comics.

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( 48 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
I avoided the whole major thing by attending University of Michigan, which was the first university to offer a Bachelor of General Studies, which has no major.

Weird, but then so am I.

I'd like to get a Masters and PhD in something if I could ever figure out something worth getting one in - but seeing as I couldn't even decide upon a major in my undergrad years, that doesn't seem too likely to happen.

Do they offer advanced degrees in procrastination or indecisiveness?
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:23 am (UTC)
Aaaawwww, dude, whaaaat?

-toddles off, brain broken- (Though i already betted on the bias of historians & the like. It's everywhere, really. Ahh well. ;;;; )
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:58 am (UTC)
...I think a little part of me just died. ;~;
Sep. 2nd, 2009 06:24 am (UTC)
This also left me devastated though luckily I realised it in first year. I now am continuing with Majors in Anthropology and in “looking at what one person thinks happened in comparison to what these other people think happened and writing then writing an essay about them all”.

Yet, I still can't convince my Commerce/Engineer graduate brother that 'History' is more than memorising timelines. :\
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
This is also what I learned to love about historiography. It doesn't match the excitement you feel in high school, thinking you know how everything really happened, though.
(no subject) - ohgollygeedamn - Sep. 3rd, 2009 03:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
I had a bit of shock like that studying biology. First thing you learn is that there are 5 kingdoms, not the two you grew up with.

Then you learn that there is no such thing as species. That was a bit of a brain breaker.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
No species?! ;)

Physics gave me a shock. Yes, there are a lot of bizarre things you learn in physics, but the thing that disturbed me was learning that two objects can never actually touch. I'm a very tactile person, and this depressed me.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 09:12 am (UTC)
thank you for this. I studies Archeology and medieval history for a while and I always felt like everyone else was happy and just I was getting more sad with every course I took..
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
You're not alone! Looking back, I remember there were a few happy students in the history department. Most of them focused on oral history. Oh, sure! Run around with a tape recorder instead of trudging through Bede!
Sep. 2nd, 2009 10:28 am (UTC)
huh. I was a history major too, and I wasn't taught that. I was taught that there are events that are just plain fact, like the date of Pearly Harbor for example, because we can pinpoint when exactly they happened. Other events and how people felt about them are more conjecture and historiography. That less concrete stuff is very important in terms of understanding the past and where we came from. History exists in primary sources and an understanding of historiography is vital to any work in history. However, my concentration was also modern european, hence the WWII reference. The farther back you go, the more history relies on historiography. My school apparently also favored this vastly different school of thought.

I love this comic sooo much! I don't know of any other comic where I can actually discuss history and not be thought of as weird. This has to be one of the smartest comics on the internet. *goes to vote*
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
Everything you learned in history is historiography. If it is not an artifact or primary source, it is historiography. Yes, you have concrete facts like the date of Pearl Harbor, but everything else, like trying to say why it happened, is historiography. Really, you can't even trust a first-hand account as fact. A person can say why they did something, but you have no way of knowing that they were telling the truth. What they're saying could be wrong, intentionally or not.

You also have the problem of whether Pearl Harbor is important. Most people think it is (myself included), but this is entirely subjective. The fact it happened, the date when it happened... these may be of no consequence at all. That you have chosen that event to be important is historiography.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 11:01 am (UTC)
I remember when I learned Santa Claus didn't exist. 6th grade--everybody in my class was saying it, so I asked my mom. I figured she'd be all "They're just kidding". Nope, she told me he doesn't exist. I'm still depressed.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)
One of my friends linked here, and I'd like to show this strip to my history students today, as it's the first day of term, and like you said, illusions need to be removed.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:28 pm (UTC)
Please do! I'd be honored. ^_^
(no subject) - ragnvaeig - Sep. 2nd, 2009 11:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kimonos_house - Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
I've always hated history for the sheer boredom it represented (date memorization) and for the lack of 360-degree view on events as they happened. Then again, I didn't take any history classes in college. This historiography, however, sounds like an awesome course. :)
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
History just is not taught right in school. As kids, we're all force-fed dates and isolated events that people assure us are important. Those things tend to be whatever puts your nation in a positive light. Students aren't encouraged to create their own theories or investigate primary sources for themselves, so too many people think of history as dry and boring rather than creative.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 01:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, but this is what I love about history! Pulling data and interpretations from as many sources as you can, finding completely unexpected and fascinating bits of information, and arguing with like-minded people over things that happened (or didn't happen) a thousand years ago...

Why yes, I'm a medieval grad student, why do you ask? ;)
Sep. 2nd, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
To SCA geeks you're a total hero. :D

And I completely agree, we'll never have a 100% accurate picture after a certain point but half the fun is in the discovery and the discussion. Though it is my personal mission in life to have Christopher Columbus's holiday revoked on the grounds that he was a murderer (::sings:: And he didn't discover America...). ;)
(no subject) - historychick49 - Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallonmay - Sep. 2nd, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kimonos_house - Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallonmay - Sep. 2nd, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - historychick49 - Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mallt - Sep. 2nd, 2009 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
I love this one, Dava. Informative, philosophical, and a little funny too. :)

Where would the History Channel appear on this diagram? Probably as a splotch-shaped mark a couple of inches outside the green circle, right?
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
The History Channel would be the black dot at the bottom, run through a shredder, reconstituted into a quivering mass, and stamped "FACT!" on the label.
(no subject) - marzipan9 - Sep. 2nd, 2009 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kimonos_house - Sep. 2nd, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 2nd, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
I'll stick to the Discovery Channel! *watches the MythBusters blow up California*
Sep. 2nd, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
Hehe, the History Channel is a load of Fiction to me. :)
Sep. 2nd, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
This is why I am more interested in studying the fiction of the past, rather than the 'facts'. There is more truth in fiction than people think.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)
Absolutely! Every history course I took had us read at least two works of fiction, usually three. I've read Beowulf more times than any sane person should because of that.
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( 48 comments — Leave a comment )

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Kimono's Townhouse is copyright Dava Butler. My Little Pony and all related characters, including Kimono and Minty, are copyright of Hasbro, Inc. All other characters are copyright of their respective owners. This site has no affiliation with Hasbro, and no infringement of its properties is intended.

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